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Friday, March 28, 2014

Weekend Reading: Commonweal on Legislative Religious Accommodations

Here's a newly published piece in Commonweal, coming out in the print issue next week and available outside the paywall online, about the recent debates over legislative accommodations for religion. Here's the introduction:

After Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed a bill last month that amended that state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, onlookers on both sides of the culture wars may have breathed a sigh—of relief or of frustration, depending on which side they were on. I hope they enjoyed it, because the break’s over.

The Arizona controversy wasn’t the first and it won’t be the last. Similar bills are in various stages of development in Mississippi, Georgia, Oklahoma, and elsewhere. Brewer’s veto, with its implication that the national and state Republican establishments and business interests would oppose such legislation if it aroused too much negative attention, may tamp down the fires in some states. Elsewhere, it will only stoke them. There are some serious issues here, they are not going away, and they are rarely described accurately. In other words, we are getting yet another master class on how to hold a culture war in America. Here’s a short explanation of the issues and a few lessons for combatants and onlookers alike.


Posted by Paul Horwitz on March 28, 2014 at 11:26 AM in Paul Horwitz | Permalink


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Nice work, as always, Paul. With respect to this point: "[T]he logic of legislative accommodations for individuals, let alone businesses, that object on religious grounds to the application of antidiscrimination laws does indeed pose a serious threat to our civil-rights laws, which are the foundation of a just, egalitarian modern society." I guess I think it depends on what we think the "logic of legislative accommodations" is. As I see it, "built in" to that logic is the constraint/limit that legislative accommodations will not be extended when extending them would undermine the compelling government interest that I assume we all agree civil-rights laws are intended to serve. Put differently, can we say that this threat-stopping limit is *part of* the logic of legislative accommodations of the RFRA-type (that is, of the type that are not categorical but instead depend on context-specific balancing)? Best, R

Posted by: Rick Garnett | Mar 28, 2014 4:20:05 PM

With all due respect, built into logic, is the truth about the human person from The Beginning, the fact that regardless of ancestry, every human person, from the moment of our creation at conception, has been created in The Image of God, equal in Dignity, while being complementary as a son or daughter; we have been called, from The Beginning, to live our lives in relationship with God, not as objects of sexual desire/orientation, but as sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, fathers, mothers. To deny the truth about the inherent Dignity of the human person from The Beginning, is to deny The Word of God.

The question is, how can any Government claim a compelling government interest to deny The Word of God, when our inherent Right to Life, to Liberty, and to The Pursuit of Happiness, has been endowed to us from The True God, the purpose of which can only be, what God intended?

Posted by: Nancy D. | Mar 31, 2014 8:12:58 AM

So, you have no issue when Laycock, et. al. flood state legislatures and courts with letters advocating maximalist religious exemptions whenever gay rights are implicated but when other scholars with opposing views attempt to counter what amounts to sectarian lobbying, you cry foul.
Further, it is a bit too clever by half to scold gays for objecting to imposing strict scrutiny against them when in most states courts still subject them to rational basis review and less than half the states have statutory anti-discrimination laws. You keep harping on how quickly social values have changed, as if that should be held against gays, rather than lamenting that it took so long to finally get a few scraps from the table. As if that wasn't insulting enough, you realize that these laws are just a rear guard attempt for conservatives to lock in discrimination for another generation or so but you apparently approve of this! Your Whiggish faith in progress towards equality does alot of heavy lifting in that article...Some of us aren't so sanguine.

Posted by: etseq | Mar 31, 2014 4:12:49 PM

etseq, regardless of ancestry, desire, or consent, a man remains a man, a woman remains a woman; it is not unjust discrimination to discriminate between acts that respect the inherent personal and relational Dignity of the human person, and acts that do not. In recognizing the self evident truth that our unalienable Rights have been endowed to us from God, our Founding Fathers recognized that man is not an end in himself, nor is man a means to an end; from The Beginning, man was created for communion with God.

Every human person has the inherent Right to be treated with Dignity and respect in private and in public; every human person has the inherent right to experience authentic Love.

Posted by: Nancy D. | Apr 1, 2014 9:54:41 AM

"... it is not unjust discrimination to discriminate between acts that respect the inherent personal and relational Dignity of the human person, and acts that do not."

Wow, that's a big one!

Posted by: Barry | Apr 1, 2014 10:58:16 AM

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